A Fight for Life
Renee Kiri was 24 and studying psychology when she suddenly lost her vision during a lecture.
Thinking that it must have just been a migraine, she carried on with her day – until she suddenly lost her breath at the supermarket. The next year saw Renee go through multiple life-threatening brain surgeries to remove huge cysts in her brain that gave her painful headaches that lasted for over a year.
We talked to Renee about how she coped with the sudden shift from student to patient, and how her inner strength and her loving friends and family helped her to get through.
It must have come as a shock that your headaches were caused by cysts in your brain, and that you needed brain surgery. How did you cope with going from studying to a life of hospital treatments?
I think acceptance really helped me at this stage. Accepting the hand I was dealt, but also trusting myself to overcome it. I’m lucky to have some incredible people in my life – the support from my friends, family and community has been amazing.
But for the first year, I kept it a secret from many. I’ve always been a private person – I wasn’t ready to open up about my struggle. I knew that this would be something that would help me grow as a person, but I had to take time and be mindful about it.
You had some really invasive brain surgeries. How did you cope with the fear of the worst happening to you?
I definitely cried a few times – why wouldn’t you? If you care for something so much, the thought of it being taken away from you is sad. Really sad.
But my quality of life is so important to me – and because my migraines were so painful, I was willing to fight for it. Fear either drives you or destroys you – I wasn’t going to let it win!
What have you learnt from this experience? How has your journey changed you?
I’ve grown a lot from this. More than anything, my perspective has changed – I’m so much more curious and things take on a much deeper meaning. As humans, we find it so hard being in situations we can’t control – like having an unexpected illness, or losing friends – it’s how we respond to that that makes it easier to overcome it. That’s how you can take back control.
What words of advice do you have for someone who might be dealing with pain or a major illness?
I have huge respect and love for those in need or who may be struggling. Trust yourself, and always be hopeful. Sometimes you have to go through darkness to see your light.